Well, it’s that time again. The cherry blossoms have been and gone and the bugs have begun their terrifying invasion, which must mean that spring has officially arrived in my part of the world – and with it, a bunch of promising (as well as not-so-promising) new anime. Of the twelve titles I’ve given a try, exactly half of them managed to impress me enough to watch further. As usual though, let’s start from the bottom of the heap and work our way up.
Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
Score: 3/10 (Dropped)
In most regards this seems to be a fairly cliché harem story – main ‘everyman’ character gets beaten up a lot, repeatedly falls face-first into ample amounts of cleavage, etc. etc. I’m going to assume that this is billed as a comedy series, but since I personally don’t find physical abuse, boob jokes, alcoholism, or creepy bachelors especially funny, I won’t be watching any further.
Akuma no Riddle/Devil’s Riddle
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)
This feels a bit like a more cheaply-produced version of Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom, only with the addition of a pseudo-lesbian cast and a healthy dose of fanservice. It’s far from the worst or most offensive anime I’ve set my eyes on, but I think I’ll pass nonetheless. It’s not hammy enough for me to take as far as raw entertainment value goes, and yet I’m just unable to take a series that uses pocky as a weapon with any kind of seriousness.
Hitsugi no Chaika
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)
‘Tis the season for light novel adaptations, and while I don’t like it when I see something immediately written off as ‘LN trash’ before it’s even seen the light of day, Hitsugi no Chaika really is a poor series; stilted writing, worn-out stereotypes (Lolita-Maid-Princess, anyone?), and no finesse to speak of in any area. The plot actually seems perfectly serviceable and could in itself be a lot of fun, but no amount of exploding man-eating unicorns can save this one from its almost painfully hackneyed demise.
Kiniro no Chord: Blue Sky
Score: 5/10 (Dropped)
The lesser of the two reverse-harem titles of the season. Not that the other, Kamigami no Asobi, is a particularly stellar title, but Kiniro no Chord: Blue Sky is by far the more tired show. You could certainly do worse if this is the genre you’re into, but the series brings absolutely nothing new or exciting to the table. Even as far as comedic value goes, the sheer ridiculousness of what goes on is for the most part played completely straight, making this yet another melodramatic bishounen-fest to add to the pile – nothing more, nothing less.
Score: 5/10 (Probably Dropped)
Shaft doesn’t exactly have a good track record with me. There have been one or two exceptions, but in general, neither the studio nor director Shinbou Akiyuki much impress me. Mekakucity Actors is unfortunately no exception, despite some of the rather lovely and interesting artwork. It’s not even the story or characters that puts me off – it’s the self-indulgent tone and repetitive visual tricks that I’ve gotten from Shaft plenty of times before and continue to get now. While Mekakucity Actors doesn’t do anything terribly wrong, I also don’t see any real originality or passion here – just another one-trick pony, and a title that’s trying too hard to be ‘artsy’. I’ll give it one more episode, but honestly my expectations are fairly low.
Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii/The World is Still Beautiful
Score: 6/10 (Dropped)
To be clear, I don’t dislike what I’ve seen of this series. It’s frankly refreshing to see a shoujo princess that’s neither smitten at first sight nor a doormat, and it’s also a relatively bright, nice-looking show. The reason it gets put in the dropped pile has more to do strictly with personal taste than anything; I tend to prefer my fantasy titles on the darker side, or at least to present a more socially/politically realistic setting. However, I get a very cartoonish vibe with Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (seriously, the villains may as well have started laughing manically while twirling evil mustaches as they explained their dastardly schemes to each other in that first episode), and much of what goes on seems quite comedic in tone. It’s no particular reflection on the quality of the series, but this one just doesn’t do it for me.
Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei/The Irregular at Magic High School
If Pretty Points were what mattered most then Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei would undoubtedly be one of the best titles of the season, and I’d be lying if I said that the alternative universe didn’t appeal to me on some level. Heavy-handed or not, I quite like the magical system presented here and dig some of the styling choices. However, I can’t help but be put off by the transparently obvious (and by now incredibly clichéd) perfect older brother/moe younger sister thing, which I think everyone can safely assume is going to be a mainstay of the series. I also doubt we’ll be seeing any innovative characterisation here – so I get why this show isn’t looked upon favourably by the “Light Novels are the Spawn of Satan” crowd. That said, it’s certainly nice to look at, I haven’t been annoyed too much thus far, and for all the derision it’s getting, I don’t see that Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei has committed any grave sin so far.
Kamigami no Asobi
Clearly it’s no Ouran High School Host Club, but this show is still entertaining as all hell. I’m instinctively attracted to fantasy settings when it comes to reverse-harems, since it means I’m bound to have a far higher tolerance for the general silliness that’s sure to ensue. And boy does Kamigami no Asobi deliver in that regard. This is a blatantly ridiculous series in pretty much every way, but the bishie action amuses rather than annoys me, and the visuals are both bright and clean. Intelligent? Not by a long shot. Fun? Absolutely.
At first glance, this one has a lot of the hallmarks of a potentially awful show – Obnoxious and Clingy Loli, fanservice of the Short Skirts and Obvious Breasts variety, and a story that feels like it’s aiming to be a bit more original or interesting than it actually is. There are a couple of things that the anime does very right, though. The first episode managed to nail that fine line between cluing the audience in where it matters most and not info-dumping everyone with awkward exposition, while the second episode did a much better job of making the characters more likable and emotionally realistic than how they first came across. Production values are none too shabby either – even if this turns out to be a fairly mindless action-orientated show, at least the action is pretty damn decent. Easily the best light novel adaptation of the season.
To put it bluntly, I’m not a mecha fan. I don’t mind one or two big damn robots if an anime is mostly character-driven, but I don’t really care for robotic transformation sequences, huge guns, or space explosions. I’m also side-eying the generous dosage of fanservice that this series is getting – I’m no prude, but I don’t think this story gains much from jiggling breast shots either. (And for fuck’s sake, the fixation with making female antagonists ultra-flirtatious or sexually overt while the female protagonists are contrasted as adorable and sexually innocent pisses me off more and more. This trend certainly isn’t an anime-only one, but I’ve grown to hate it.) On the positive side of things, Captain Earth is a great-looking show, the writing and direction seems competent enough, and our main character displays a lot of emotional self-awareness right from the get-go that’s surprising for this kind of title. This is no Renton or Shinji we’ve got here – Daichi has too much confidence for that, and it makes for a nice change. Despite my reservations, I’ll most likely be sticking with this one.
Isshuukan Friends/One Week Friends
Colour me surprised. For whatever reason, I hadn’t actually been planning to watch Isshuukan Friends at all – probably because my first glimpse of the artwork reminded me unpleasantly of Saikano, a story which I had serious issues with. So I watched episode one on a whim, but am oh so happy that I did because second only to Mushishi, this is currently my spring season favourite. It’s adorable but not sickly-sweet, and though the plot sounds worthy of some eye-rolling, I think it’s being used in a very effective way. Whether Isshuukan Friends will consist mostly of delicious fluff or else have something a bit deeper to say about the nature of loneliness and day-to-day social isolation (I won’t hold the former against it but am definitely hoping for the latter), it’s already set to be a heart-warmingly beautiful title.
Mushishi Zoku Shou
With the same staff behind the sequel of an anime that I’d happily put on my top 10 list, and the same stunningly gorgeous atmosphere that older fans of Mushishi all know and love, it’s absolutely no surprise that this is one of the most popular shows of the season. For viewers who might still need a little convincing or aren’t too sure what to expect before going in, I recommend a read of this excellent article. Unless there are any major surprises further on down the road with other shows, this is easily going to be the best series of spring – and most likely among the best of the entire year.
Question of the post: What shows have left the biggest impressions on you this anime season, either for better or for worse? Is there anything you feel that I’m definitely missing out on?
Note: Happy 1-year anniversary for Otaku Lounge! I haven’t got anything especially deep or profound to say on this occasion, but I’d like to give a heartfelt thank-you to everyone for reading. I hope I can continue to write posts that will keep you interested/informed/entertained in the future.